Balance Problems Raise the Risk of Falls
We know that falls can be a serious issue for seniors. Falls can lead to injuries that could limit mobility and independence. That’s why fall prevention is something seniors and their caregivers should always keep in mind. One way to prevent falls is to identify any existing balance issues. Balance disorders, also called vestibular dysfunction, are one of the reasons older people experience falls.
Balance is sometimes referred to as the “sixth sense.” We don’t often think about our balance when it’s working, but it helps to assist our bodies with every step or reach we make. Our sense of balance helps us understand our position relative to our environment, whether we are moving or sitting still. A good sense of balance helps us walk without staggering, rise from a chair, or safely bend over without falling. This sense is maintained by the vestibular system, a part of the inner ear that connects a person’s hearing and balance through a shared nerve to the brain. This system also receives input from your eyes, neck and spine in order to maintain a sense of balance. When this system is not functioning correctly, a person’s sense of balance can be affected.
Experiencing balance issues is not an inevitable part of getting older. Troubles with balance can come at any age, but it is more dangerous for older people to have balance issues that could lead to falls and further injuries. Balance issues could be caused by an ear infection, stroke or upper respiratory infection. Some medications or injuries to the head or neck can also contribute to problems with one’s sense of balance. Even low blood pressure could cause dizziness and balance issues. Your doctor may be able to help you manage these underlying medical issues.
Balance disorders contribute to many fall-related deaths annually. It’s even one of the top reasons why older adults seek help from a doctor. Some symptoms of balance disorders include:
- vertigo, a spinning sensation
- blurry vision
- faint feeling
Most balance issues are temporary. You may feel dizzy for a moment while walking up the stairs or experience a falling sensation when you aren’t moving. If balance issues are persistent, talk to a doctor about managing symptoms and identifying a cause. For many balance problems, treatment is available.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Talk to your health care provider about any balance issues you may be experiencing.